Flower: What inspired you to start your career around flowers, and how did you get your start in the floral industry? Mimi Brown: It just sort of happened organically. I’ve always loved entertaining. I think it was brought on by watching my grandmother. She entertained a lot and had a beautiful rose garden. Growing up in the South and watching the women at church entertain often was a big part of my life—and a big part of entertaining was always the flowers.
I was actually in law school when I first heard of floral designer Sybil Sylvester, and I wanted to go work for her. I would drive from Tuscaloosa on the weekends to work for her events in Birmingham instead of studying. Sybil soon offered me a job, and I said yes. I worked for her for six years, and that’s when I met Margot Shaw. We would work events together, and I think Sybil and I were some of the first people she told about wanting to start a magazine. Margot and I would talk about the vision as we drove from town to town carting flowers around. The magazine has come so far from then!
You used to have a regular column in Flower called “Mimi’s Mechanics.” What did you love best about having a regular column? And do you have a favorite? The thing I really loved about it was that it kept me thinking. I was always finding new inspiration and planning for my next column. What I enjoyed even more than finding new ideas was that I got to teach. I think flowers can be intimidating. A lot of people just stick their flowers in water as is, and really all you need are a few steps to make them a little more exciting. The column let me show readers how to do just that.
Out of all of the columns I did, I think the hand-tied bouquet was my favorite. It’s so classic and beautiful, and I think everyone should know how to make them. You can wrap it up in paper and send it to a friend or keep it in your own home—the technique is really valuable.
After Birmingham you moved to New York, where you have since worked with several fashion designers and major companies. Why did you move to New York? I honestly wanted more resources and more access to the flower market. Here in New York, I can walk up and down the Flower District on 28th Street and be so inspired and pull a party together in a few hours. You’re just exposed to more. Inspiration radiates from there, and I moved because I wanted to be a part of it.
What was one of the first big parties that you designed when you arrived in New York? Who was it for and what did you create? It was doing Zac Posen’s David’s Bridal launch. We did it at the Academy Mansion, which is this gorgeous, old-world house on the Upper East Side. I created mounds and mounds of hydrangeas on the mantels, and topiaries out in the courtyard. We staged it with French furniture to complete the look, and it paired beautifully with the home and the collection he was launching. We actually ended up shooting the ad campaign there as a result.
Is there an event you designed that really stands out in your memory? I absolutely loved designing the Goop x Cadillac Road to Table dinner in New York. It was all whites and greens, brass accents, and lots of the Goop trademark gray. We started the night with cocktails at the Whitney museum, and then guests drove the new Cadillacs to the dinner at Mario Batali’s restaurant La Sirena. The tables were done in gray linen tablecloths and matching napkins, and gray letterpress menus. I placed a stem of hellebore on each plate, which was framed by gold flatware.
I made two styles of flowers for the tables. One was for the long tables. I used clear glass bud vases to create a runner. Each vase held one type of white flower en masse—a different type in each vase—and they were stationed beside platinum matte votives and brass candlesticks with gray taper candles. The other style was for round tables, which had the same linens, and I filled platinum bowls with a looser-style arrangement that included white garden roses, scabiosas, Japanese ranunculus, astilbe, and viburnum. It was beautiful.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? I think I’ll be doing what I’m doing now, which is a little of this and a little of that. I’ll still be doing flowers. I’d love to design a line of tabletop that includes vases and a home accessories line. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do, and I think it complements my love for entertaining. To me, vases are as important as the flower, so I’d love to create some of those.
- Davis Austin ‘Patience’ Roses
- ‘Cappuccino’ garden roses
- ‘White majolica’ spray roses
- sweet peas
- cherry blossom branches
- Japanese sword fern
- leafless headed eucalyptus
- Japanese spirea
- dusty miller
- pussy willow branches